The spotlight shines brightest in football on the quarterback position, where every move and every decision is scrutinized.
Senior quarterback Zeke Laird has led Prairie Grove to consecutive victories after serving as a backup the previous two seasons. He is the son of Prairie Grove defensive coordinator Craig Laird.
Junior John David Elder is the punter and a defensive starter for the Tigers, who face West Fork at home on Friday. Elder is the son of Prairie Grove assistant coach John Elder.
A 3-year-old Broc Berus (left) is all smiles while posing in pads with his dad, Chris Berus, in 2001. Broc is a senior running back/linebacker at Shiloh Christian while Chris is the Saints’ defensive coordinator.
If the quarterback is the son of a coach on the team, the heat can be even more intense. Prairie Grove starting quarterback Zeke Laird has felt it his entire career as has his backup, John David Elder, the projected starter for next year.
PREP RALLY VIDEO
Each Tuesday and Friday, NWADG sports reporter Vernon Tarver hosts the Prep Rally show at nwadg.com and arpreps.com. Weekend wraps, interviews, previews of upcoming games, plus expert analysis are featured on the videocast.
Both are the sons of assistant coaches at Prairie Grove, which is 2-0 after wins over Farmington and Vian, Okla.
"A few people might think I'm the quarterback just because I'm the coach's son, so, yes, the pressure is there a bit," Laird said. "I just take it that I have to prove myself and show I am the man for the job."
Laird is off to a good start his senior year after spending two previous years as a backup quarterback. He threw for four touchdowns and 270 yards in a win over Farmington then added 186 yards passing and another touchdown in the victory at Vian.
"He's not the quarterback because he's a coach's son. He's the quarterback because he's good," longtime Prairie Grove coach Danny Abshier said. "He can handle things and he's paid his dues while waiting his time."
In two starts, Laird has completed 17 of 28 passes for 456 yards and 5 touchdowns with 1 interception. He and Elder also play on defense and special teams for the Tigers, who face West Fork at home today in their final nonconference game of the season. Laird provided one of the highlights in a scrimmage against Van Buren when he made an open-field tackle after a punt by Elder.
"Being out there as a punter and playing defense means a lot," said John David Elder, who also saw action at quarterback last week at Vian. "It's important, especially when I didn't get to play a lot as a sophomore."
Not all the criticism and scrutiny of a coach's son comes from the outside. Relationships between a father and his son can sometimes be strained, especially when they're on the field together trying to win games. Coach John Elder admits he's been tough on his son during his growth as a player and that football talk will often extend from the field to the home.
"That's probably not in John David's favor that I'm also a coach," said John, who coaches the Prairie Grove receivers, tight ends, and defensive tackles. "With him, I might grab his facemask to make a point and with other kids you don't do that. I've been hard on him because I didn't want anyone to speculate on why he's out there."
Broc Berus is one of only two true two-way starters for Shiloh Christian, which is 2-0 after a 44-42 victory at Little Rock Christian last week. The senior running back and linebacker is the son of Chris Berus, the Saints' defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
Broc leads Shiloh Christian with 19 tackles and he's rushed for 159 yards and scored four touchdowns, including a 47-yard reception in which he hurdled two defenders and broke several tackles on his way to the end zone. He has received three scholarship offers, including one from East Central University in Ada, Okla., where his dad played in college and where Broc was born.
"Expectations were extremely high for him, just because he was a coach's son, which can be unfair," Chris Berus said. "I was harder on him and I did not treat him like the other kids. Once we worked through those issues, and I began to understand what his strengths and weaknesses are, I became a better father and our relationship as father-son became a lot, lot better."
The relationship between the Lairds helps in that Craig Laird is the defensive coordinator at Prairie Grove and not his son's position coach.
"It does, for sure," Craig said. "A lot of kids in youth leagues have never had anyone coach them but their dads. They get up in school ball and they don't know how to handle it sometimes with someone else telling them what to do. It's beneficial not to be his position coach but, at the same time, I can offer him things the other coaches may not see."
Being a coach can also be hard other family members when they're moving from job to job. Broc Berus experienced that two years ago when the family moved from Plainview, Okla., to Arkansas.
"When I first found out about it, I wasn't too happy about it because I was halfway through high school," Broc said. "I had all of my friends I was comfortable with, and figured I was going to graduate from that high school. It wasn't my first option, but now that I'm here, I'm happy we made the move."
Laird and Elder have each experienced considerable success with their teams at Prairie Grove. Elder led his junior high team to an undefeated season and a conference championship as a quarterback in ninth grade.
Both played last year when Prairie Grove went 13-2 and reached the Class 4A state finals for the first time in school history.
"That was one of the best experiences of my life and we had a great time, even though we lost the game," John David said. "I hope we can do it again and I think we can if we put everything together."
Staff writer Mike Capshaw contributed to this report.
Sports on 09/16/2016
Print Headline: Rays of son-shine